Census update shows that middle-class declining in Ventura County

August 23, 2006
Santa Paula News

When people talk to area residents about an up tick in population, don’t believe it.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesWhen people talk to area residents about an up tick in population, don’t believe it. The latest U.S. Census figures have shown that Ventura County is losing its middle class, which eventually would mean trouble for businesses and schools.Recently released Census data shows that more people continue to leave Ventura County than arrive here from other counties, a number that did however include people coming here from other nations or those moving abroad. According to the U.S. Census report, the number of people moving from Ventura County to other parts of the United States more than doubled over the past two years.The California State Department of Finance, which uses a different formula to calculate population figures, shows a net gain in residents although the net migration out of Ventura County is still high.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Ventura County was 796,165 in 2003-2004 and showed a drop of 59 residents - to 796,106 - the following reporting period of 2004-2005. The California Department of Finance showed a 2003-2004 population of 808,425, and a gain of 7,103 people in 2004-2005 to 815,528.
But the state report did note a net migration of 4,270 people during the reporting period, less than half the U.S. Census migration figure of 10,642. With the median price of Ventura County housing hovering at the mid-$600,000, it’s the middle class that is declining.An April regional growth conference titled “Where Will the Children Live” addressed middle-class flight. It’s a reality, according to Bill Watkins, an economist and director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, who noted that the desirability of Ventura County living has priced the area out of the middle-class market.And baby boomers and retirees often don’t have children, a ripple effect being felt throughout Ventura County, where public school enrollment is declining. According to the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Chuck Weis, more than 300 students were lost countywide: “So far this year we think we’re down five times as much, 1,500 students or maybe higher.”Declining enrollment also means less funding, which threatens programs such as music, art and sports.... And without funding comes a loss of middle-class jobs, which ultimately could threaten the viability of the schools themselves, noted Weis.

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